WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama got new jobs figures today to buttress his argument that he's presiding over steady, if slow, economic growth.
But the government's report that the overall rate of unemployment actually crept up by one-tenth of a point allows Republican Mitt Romney to keep pressure on Obama to defend his record.
The new unemployment numbers show that private employers added 163,000 jobs in July, the best pace of hiring in five months. The jobless rate rose, however, to 8.3 percent from 8.2 percent in June. Romney jumped on the report, calling the figures a "hammer blow" to middle-class families.
"We've now gone 42 consecutive months with the unemployment rate above 8 percent," Romney said in a statement. "Middle-class Americans deserve better, and I believe America can do better."
No U.S. president since World War II has been re-elected with unemployment above 8 percent.
White House economist Alan Krueger said today's report was evidence that the economy is recovering.
"It is critical that we continue the policies that build an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007," Krueger said.